BLTC Press Titles


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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle


Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


Journeys in North China, Manchuria, and Eastern Mongolia; with some account of Corea

by Alexander Williamson

Excerpt:

SOUTHERN MANCHURIA.

23

Southern Manchuria may be described as .an irregular triangle, whose apex is projected southwards into the Gulf of Pe-chih-li, the waters of which wash it on the east and west. I have paid three visits to this country: the first in the spring of 1864; the second in April, 1866; and the third in the autumn of 1867: on which occasion I made two journeys, the one northwards via Hai-ching and Liau-yang to Mouk-den (also called Shin-yang), the capital of Manchuria; and the other round the promontory, crossing it twice, going as far as the Gate of Corea, and visiting every place of any importance both on the seaboard and inland.

Southern Manchuria may be divided into two distinct regions, the one a plain, and the other an elevated country full of high mountains. A line drawn from West King-chow-foo (lat. 41° 12' N., long. 121° 10' E.) north-east to Shin-yang, thence south by west through Liau-yang and Hai-ching to Kai-chow and the sea, gives the level country on the south, and the mountains on the north and east. The former is an alluvial deposit, extremely fertile, except contiguous to the sea, where that saline exudation so common in the North of China interferes fatally with the productiveness of the soil. The other portion consists of huge mountain masses, interspersed with fertile and sometimes extensive valleys. The masses of mountains appear to lie in no determined direction, but careful observation shows that the prevailing line is north by south, while there are several ranges of great length whose direction no one can mistake, and which lie north by south, or north-east by south-west.

The plain is monotonous and in some places dreary, especially in proximity to the coast, and yet it has its charms; fine crops of millet and other grain, and clusters of tall trees, embowering in their foliage large villages with a busy population. The crack of the whip, the joyous song of the ploughman, and the various labours of the husbandman, delight the visitor in summer; and numerous lagoons, swarming with waterfowl, render the bleakest parts interesting at most seasons of the year. The soil generally tends to be swampy, and few travellers fall in love with this region, for one day's rain will often make the roads utterly impassable for carts; and the wight caught in such a misfortune has a sad time of it—his cart floundering out of one black pool into another, now in the roads, then in the fields, plunging and splashing at the rate of a mile an hour—men, beasts, and carts covered with mud.

The hill-country is extremely picturesque: everchanging views, torrents and fountains, varied and abounding vegetation, flocks of black-cattle grazing on the hill-sides, goats perched on the overhanging crags, horses, asses, and sheep on the less elevated regions, numerous well-built hamlets, everywhere enliven the scene; while a clear blue canopy overspreading all, and fine bracing air, make the country delightful to the traveller.

The eastern side of the promontory differs in a FORM OF LAND.—CLIMATE.—SEASONS. 25

perceptible measure from the western. The watershed is not in the centre, but nearer the western shore; making a rough estimate, one-third of the country lies towards the west, whilst two-thirds appear on the eastern side. This affects the climate, the fertility of the soil, and the productions of the country. Towards the east and south, the slopes are more gentle, and consequently more exposed to the rays of the sun; moreover, they receive the south-west monsoon, laden with its fructifying vapours. As a consequence, we found this district of the country abounding in all kinds of grain, and especially yielding an immense quantity of Indian corn, which is exported to Shan-tung and the South.

The climate of Manchuria includes the extremes of heat and cold; in summer, the temperature varies from 70° to 90°, and in winter from 50° above to 10° below zero. The rivers are generally frozen over by about the 20th November, and are not navigable till the middle of March. The seasons may be divided thus,— six weeks of spring, five months of summer, then six weeks of autumn, and four months of winter. The crops grow and come to perfection in a few months, and by the end of October everything is safely housed. The winter generally begins with a snow-storm, after which the weather clears up and hard dry frost sets in, which continues, with the relief of a fall of snow now and then, till the sun asserts its supremacy. The winter is very enjoyable; if warmly clad, you can scour the country in all directions, marsh, lake, or river presenting no obstacle. Carts go in a straight line wherever they please, and it is during winter that the great bulk of the pulse-crop is brought down to the seaports, and there stored for shipment when the rivers open. .Such in general is true in reference to climate; but the physical character of the country produces some modifications. Among the hills the extremes are not so great; the summer heat being not nearly so intense. In several places on the eastern coast, especially in the neighbourhood of Sui-yen, the climate is comparatively moist. The high ranges of mountains appear to attract and condense the clouds, so that the atmosphere there is more like some parts of Europe than Asia. I mention this, as every one knows that a moist climate is a great desideratum in the North of China. But it is very different in the basin of the Liau-ho, where the fiat surface, hardened by the sun, in summer reflects his rays, and in winter radiates the cold. Yet even at Ying-tsze—the least pleasantly situated spot—the climate is extremely healthy. My esteemed friend Dr. Watson assures me that serious sickness is very rare amongst the foreign residents.


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